Somewhere between the White House and the jailhouse there is, allegedly, a mythical region called the “middle ground.” Occupants of a jailhouse in South Bend, Ind., had plenty of time to ponder President Obama’s message to Notre Dame graduates on May 17, 2009, concerning this “middle ground.” They, including Alan Keyes, who formerly ran for this country’s highest office, had been incarcerated because they had protested both abortion and Notre Dame’s decision to confer upon the president an honorary law degree.
If such a middle ground could be found, it would most assuredly not be on the campus of the University of Notre Dame. The presence of police officers made that only too painfully evident. Obama stated in The Audacity to Hope that no one can be exempted from helping to find this common ground, a curious mandate since no one knows where the middle ground is. “Middle ground” has become President Obama’s mantra: “When we open up our hearts and our minds to those who may not think precisely like we do or believe precisely what we believe — that’s when we discover at least the possibility of common ground.”
He also strongly advised against each side of the abortion controversy reducing the other to a “caricature.” But in urging pro-life people to open their hearts and minds, is he, at the same time, confessing his appalling ignorance of what the pro-life side has been doing for the last four decades? Consider the pro-life work of the heart, such as the hundreds of Birthright chapters throughout the country that have come to the assistance of women with problem pregnancies. Consider the numerous groups that help women who suffer from post-abortion difficulties. Consider the pro-life work of the mind: the innumerable scientists, researchers, historians, philosophers and sociologists who have shed important light on the nature of the unborn child, as well as on the adverse effects that induced abortion has on the aborting woman, marriage, the family and society in general. The hearts and minds of pro-life people have hardly been closed.
But the president himself seems closed to this demonstrable fact. Has he no idea what has transpired in the pro-life movement since Roe v. Wade in 1973? It is a terrible injustice to pro-life people to reduce them to the caricature, at least by implication, of not having open hearts or open minds. Yes, Mr. President, you are guilty of the very offense you denounce. In fact, the caricaturization you oppose is more present in your speech than it is in those whom you urge to reform.
G. K. Chesterton once remarked that “there is too much lawyer and too little law. For we must never forget one fact, which we tend to forget nevertheless: that a fixed law is the only protection of ordinary humanity against clever men — who are the natural enemies of humanity.”
President Obama is no doubt a clever man. But there is something odd about his receiving an honorary degree in law, especially from a Catholic university. Law is supposed to protect human rights, and the most fundamental of all human rights is the right to life. Obama wants to move away from protecting the right to life of the unborn to a region that does not exist. He wants all the American people to meet in Nowheresville.
We need not continue to “find” a common ground. We need to revisit and restore the common ground we lost when abortion divided the country so thoroughly that it created a virtual civil war, dividing mother against child, spouse against spouse, clergy against clergy, doctor against doctor, Catholic against Catholic.
The real common ground is where the middle ground coincides with the common good. This is also where politics and philosophy happily converge. It is the place where we protect the right to life, an “unalienable right” specified and honored in that hallowed document, the Declaration of Independence.
Donald DeMarco is a professor emeritus at St. Jerome’s University
and an adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College and Seminary and Mater Ecclesiae College.